We recently published M.J. Iuppa’s haunting “Nearly, Magnolia.”
Here, we ask her two questions about her story:
1) What drew me to this piece was the personal nature of it, how this situation affects the narrator right here, right now. Did you ever consider writing this piece with a broader scope, or was it always meant to be this small moment?
Yes, “Nearly, Magnolia” is extremely personal in its nature. I wrote this in mid- March, at the start of “Shelter in Place.” I am from western NY, but two of my adult children are living in Brooklyn, NY, and were facing the rigors of staying safe while living in small city apartments. Unfortunately, isolation became part of the pandemic, making it difficult for people to find relief from the over-whelming hours of waiting for something to happen. Springtime in NYC happens overnight, and the flowering trees, especially the Magnolias, make me heady. To see these blossoms candled by sunlight is breath-taking, but this year, people went to parks to walk, or stroll, or run from their loneliness, from their uncertainty— they were worried inside and outside about what they could and couldn’t see. I think it would be interesting to write this as a longer story. As it is now, it feels like a “knot-hole” view of having no safe place.
2) I love that line, “Where is home?” It really speaks to this sense of loss and disconnection that people have been feeling. So. This is a tough one! Where is home?
Yes, Where is home? Is that internal thought that keeps the narrator engaged in memory— her desire to be out of harm’s way. When she takes the photograph of the Magnolia tree in Prospect Park, she’s making the “invisible” visible. She is documenting the sudden rash of beauty, which is ephemeral in nature, like any place that makes you long for home.